You may have noticed on my La Jolla Half Marathon training program that once a week I include a Tempo run. If you’ve been running and racing a while, have been doing tempo runs, or just don’t care much about the science of it all, you can skip this little explanation of exactly what is a tempo run is, and jump ahead to the workouts.
Okay, thanks for sticking around. The term tempo run refers to a certain number of miles run at a certain tempo, which is faster than your normal pace. It is also called a Lactate Threshold or LT run. Lactate Threshold is the pace at which your body starts to build up lactic acid faster than it can be processed and responds by needing to slow down or stop. By doing LT training you can increase your lactate threshold so that you can run faster for a longer period of time. Lactate threshold is considered to be the most consistent predictor of performance in endurance events.
How do you determine your lactate threshold pace? For most people it is the fastest pace that they can sustain for 30 minutes to an hour. There are several methods to figuring out your own LT pace, one of which involves laboratories, treadmills, and blood samples. Another method, which does not require blood, involves monitoring your heart rate as you run as fast as you can for 30 minutes. Your average heart rate during the last 10 minutes is considered your estimated LT heart rate.
Perceived Exertion has proven to be a reliable, if subjective, method to determine your lactate threshold. Using Borg’s Scale of Perceived Exertion you can estimate your effort and determine your lactate threshold heart rate by rating your own perceived exertion. Using the 1-10 table below, you can set up your own trial run, increasing your pace every few minutes, until you reach a six on the chart. If you know and use the 6-20 Borg Scale, your threshold pace would be 13.
Now that you know the basics about what tempo training is, why it will benefit your running and how to gauge your LT pace, let’s talk about the workouts. There are all kinds of ways to do a lactate threshold run. The key is in the pace. Here are two LT workouts that you can try for yourself. If you are just starting out with tempo running, the first workout is perfect for beginners. Always warm up for at least 10 minutes by starting with a slow-moderate run. Likewise, finish each workout with at least five minutes of slower running or walking.
I may call this a beginner workout, but it is exactly the one I did when I recently returned to tempo running after several years absence. After your warmup, increase your pace to your predetermined lactate threshold pace for a half mile. Recover for a quarter mile by jogging slowly. Repeat three-six more times. Total mileage is 4- 6 miles. To Advance: Increase the number of LT intervals. Ideally, you will work up to a total of 3-5 miles combined at tempo pace.
After your warmup, increase your pace to your LT pace. Maintain this pace for two miles. Cool down. To Advance: Depending on the race distance that you are training for, you will increase the time that you are running at LT pace. If you are training for a 5k or 10k, maintain your pace for 3-5 miles (increase gradually, maybe a half mile per week). For a half marathon, you may want to increase your time at LT pace to 5-7 miles. When I was training seriously for marathons, my tempo runs would increase to 10-12 miles at LT pace.
5k Training Plan
If you are training for a 5k, my training plan can help you whether you are just getting started or a more experienced runner who wants to get faster. It is a 12-week program that will take you from the couch to your first 5k race without injury. For runners who want to get a little faster, starting with week two in the program you will find specific workouts, including tempo training runs, that will get you to your goal.
Fast & Furious Workout
The final promised workout is a 25 minute circuit challenge. It is great for runners because it is fast (leaves you more time for running), helps develop a strong core (essential for injury-free running), and balances upper body training (which runners sometimes skip). Enjoy!
I hope you enjoy all the workouts, and I promise you, if you complete either of the tempo workouts once a week for at least four weeks, you will be able to run faster longer. Have fun!
Are you training for an event right now? What is your favorite workout?